Rum Sodomy and the Lash

sailing around the world on our yacht, Ruby Rose

Category: Portugal

Alvor

You may have noticed that I’ve started naming the blogs simply after the place we’ve most recently visited. I just got sick of staring at the computer screen for, like, 5 minutes trying to come up with an interesting title. Sorry.

So, Alvor! This small town was only 3 miles away from Lagos, but a world away in every other sense. It sits on the banks of a small tidal estuary, quite touristy still, but not in an offensive way. Rather, it had two or three main streets lined with bars and restaurants, and a large supermarket on its fringe (the proximity of large, well stocked supermarkets has become a major factor in deciding how much we enjoy a place). Sitting in one of the waterfront cafes enjoying a coffee and watching the activity on the water was extremely relaxing. There was all manner of watercraft: fishing boats, dinghies, sailing yachts and catamarans, RIB’s, tourist boats, jestskis, you name it. People were waterskiing, kitesurfing, diving (for shellfish, I believe), fishing, swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, canoeing, everything.

View from our anchorage

View from our anchorage

We anchored away from the town, along the dredged channel. Everywhere else dried out at low water, creating a series of sandy islands. It was possible to get into a dinghy, pack it up with an umbrella and chairs, and go sit on one of these tidal islands for several hours until it was slowly reclaimed. Indeed, many people did do that, although we chose to explore by paddleboard instead. It was extremely serene, slowly paddling around, watching everyone go about their day. The only thing that spoiled the serenity were the jestskis and RIBs, which paid little attention to any other craft on the water, and sped around as fast as their engines would go. Quite apart from the noise, it created considerable wash, which made the boat rock around. When paddleboarding it created a bit of drama, having to keep your balance while suddenly accosted by a series of waves.

Anchorage

Anchorage

The first night we were at anchor there was a different type of drama. We were about to settle ourselves in for The Shield, when Nick spotted the nearest boat slowly drifting towards us. The tide had turned, so all the yachts were slowly turning with it, but this boat was just floating aimlessly past us. It actually came close enough that we had to fend off to avoid it colliding, and since its owner wasn’t onboard we decided to raft it to us until he returned. We assumed his anchor had dragged, but we could also see the anchor line wrapped around the keel (presumably because of the anchor buoy he had attached to the line).

The owner’s dinghy was heard about half an hour later, just as the sun was setting. He was a Dutch man, who was very apologetic, but immediately said that this was the third time this week his anchor had dragged. “I don’t understand it, I put 50 metres out and I keep dragging.”

“50 metres?! We’re only in 2 metres of water…”

So, it’s possible his anchor hadn’t dragged at all, but that his swing circle was so large because of all the line he had out, and that had caused him to float past us. Of course, with that much line out, we were bound to collide at some point, so it’s lucky Nick had spotted the boat coming closer so we had been able to take action. If we’d also been away from the boat that night, we probably would have come back to a dent in the hull. That would have made Nick sad.

We told him to please stay rafted to us overnight and get himself sorted in the morning. This wasn’t pure altruism: the last thing we wanted was for the same thing to happen overnight, because chances were we wouldn’t be able to avoid a collision a second time. He readily agreed, and Nick held out his hand. “Since we’re going to be neighbours tonight, I’d better introduce myself. I’m Nick.”

“I’m Dick!”

So, Dick and Nick managed to get Dick’s anchor up, get his anchor line untangled (which had wrapped around his keel), and then he rafted alongside without any major issues. All the while Dick declared that he’d had enough of sailing, he wasn’t even sure why he kept doing it, but this was the final straw dammit, he was selling this blasted boat and going back to dry land.

Probably for the best.

The next day we went into town for a little explore and to get some supplies. John and Sandra were planning to arrive that afternoon, and we had invited them around for an Italian feast. I have to say, I think Nick outdid himself. Bruschetta and toast with mackerel and horseradish to start (bloody delicious), followed by the best seafood linguini I do believe I’ve ever had. There was utter silence as we all scoffed this incredible pasta, interrupted only by the occasional moan of appreciation. Strawberries soaked in white wine and sugar syrup, then drizzled with cream, finished us off nicely, and everything was washed down with Limoncello and Amaretto. John and Sandra looked at Nick with new eyes, and I could almost hear them thinking, “This bloke is a handy friend to have…”

The following day was a lazy one- obviously. We went for another wander in town, then followed it up with an afternoon of paddle boarding, lying around in those inflatable donut rings, which we attached with a line to the stern, and reading, reading, reading.

And she's off!

And she’s off!

The next day we woke to a complete change in conditions. Where yesterday was blazing hot, this morning was grey and overcast with a distinct chill in the air. We upped anchor and left Alvor for Vilamoura, thinking the sun was sure to burn through the cloud soon. Well, several hours later and the visibility had only worsened. It was hard to believe we were on the Algarve: all we could see was grey.

Arriving into Vilamoura was a relief, but the only reason we were here was to source a spare spinnaker pole. We’d been in contact with a rigger, who finally turned up to do some measurements in the early evening. He will try and get the pole sent to us within the next two weeks. In the meantime, we’re outta here- the less I say about Vilamoura, the better. So, today we’re off to find another peaceful anchorage!

 

 

Lagos

After a tiring 24 hour passage, we’re finally on the Algarve. We had mixed feelings about this part of Portugal. For one, it’s one of the most popular holiday destinations for Brits- never a good sign. Secondly, it’s mid-August, and we assumed that would mean it would be absolutely steaming down here, something we weren’t necessarily looking forward to. On the first point, we were spot on. But, surprisingly, the weather is pretty moderate. It’s warm, yes, but not baking hot, and there’s almost always a fresh breeze which makes everything much more bearable. Our first day in Lagos was actually overcast, and I swear I felt a drop or two of rain. In short, the weather is much the same here as it’s been in the rest of the country so far, perhaps just a few degrees warmer.

Home!

Home!

Anyway, enough about the weather. Let’s talk about our sail down here! We left Oieras (the marina we were staying at near Lisbon) mid-morning, and John and Sandra soon followed. Needless to say, they zipped past us almost immediately and were soon barely a dot on the horizon. One of the many advantages of having a much larger boat!

In anticipation of a day of down-wind sailing, we had unpacked our trusty Parasailor and left it on the foredeck. Nick had even rigged all its lines. We were ready to get that thing in the air! However, on departing Oeiras, it was questionable whether this was actually the right sail for the job. The wind was a westerly, not a north-westerly as predicted, and blowing quite strongly. How strongly we didn’t know, because our anemometer had packed up. But we decided to launch it anyway and fly it asymmetrically. Well, it was far too windy as it turned out and one of the lines snapped off the bottom corner because it was flogging so violently. Nick was almost lifted off the deck trying to snuff the sail, and by the time we had the sail down and back in it’s bag, he could barely use his arms, they were so tired. It was a valuable lesson for us, and we were foolish to try and put that thing up in those conditions to start with.

Anyway, up went the main and out came the jib, and before long we were cruising along at a constant 7 knots, which is pretty speedy for us. It was a cracking sail, and even though the wind was cool, the sunshine kept us reasonably warm and happy. After a casserole for dinner, we settled into our watch system. I did 10pm- 2am, and Nick did 2am- 6am, and so forth. The stars were out in force, and I spent my time looking for shooting stars. It was a beautiful night. But of course, as soon as I went to bed, I couldn’t sleep- despite having to stop myself from nodding off in the cockpit several times. There’s something incredibly soporific about lying under a blanket, watching the stars shift with the motion of the boat above you, being rocked back and forth like a baby. But, somehow, the movement becomes less comfortable when you go down to your own bed! Something I’m just going to have to get used to, I’m afraid.

Our little herb garden.

Our little herb garden.

So we arrived into Lagos about 9am the next morning. We berthed up quickly and easily, and then Nick and I went straight back to bed. The only one who had gotten any sleep had been Kelly, who reported that she slept surprisingly well despite having never been on a sailing boat before, let alone overnight. I was actually really impressed that she dealt with the passage so well. So, she was bright eyed and bushy tailed as we made our way towards Lagos marina, in considerable contrast to Nick and me.

Happy crew!

Happy crew!

The next day we all headed into town for a walk. We were underwhelmed. What can I say, obviously Lagos appeals to a vast number of people, because practically everyone there was on holiday. But it’s not for us.

Today we had a job to do. Fix the anemometer, the wind speed indicator, which is located at the top of the mast. Of course it is. So I volunteered to go up and show that thing who’s boss. Let me just tell you, it’s a long way up, but the height wasn’t the worst part. The halyard (the line I was attached to) is connected to the other side of the mast to the anemometer, which meant I had to swing myself around the mast and grip it with my legs to stop myself from swinging back. Boy, my thighs have never had such a workout. And this evening I found an impressive series of bruises along my inner thigh, from holding on so tightly.

So, that done, Kelly and I did one last trip to the large supermarket behind the marina and stocked up on all the important stuff. Wine, beer and spirits were obviously at the top of our list. Then we were ready to rock and roll and off we went down the short river that leads to the Algarve coast. Kelly took the helm, Nick had a beer, and I took some happy snaps. Life is good.

Captain Nick 'supervising' while Kelly takes the helm

Captain Nick ‘supervising’ while Kelly takes the helm

Sintra

Two blogs in three days?! You lucky buggers. I must be feeling generous.

For those of you who can’t be dealing with reading me prattle on again, don’t worry. This blog is going to be very photo-heavy. More of a cross between a gallery and a Wikipedia entry, actually. So read on, dear friends.

Yesterday we did a day trip to Sintra, which was so awesome I just had to jump on the internet and tell you all about it. We booked a transfer from the marina, and invited John and Sandra along for the day. Arriving into Sintra, it was obvious this was going to be a busy day: it was only 9:30 in the morning and already there were hoards of tourists walking around purposefully, map in hand. There was a good reason for our early start. There is so much to see and do in Sintra, you probably could do with a few days instead of just one. So we- well, Kelly and I- picked our top 3 and dragged everyone to the bus stop to await the designated tourist bus.

Kelly enjoying the view in Sintra!

Kelly enjoying the view in Sintra!

The first one that arrived was so full we couldn’t get on. Yes, it was to be that kind of day. We claimed our position at the front of the line and glared at anyone who looked as though they might give us some kind of challenge. Somewhere like the UK, I’d have faith that everyone would be orderly and wait quietly in their rightful place in the line. However, when you have French, Italian, Spanish, American tourists all getting excited at the prospect of their Big Day Out, well it can get a little tense. However, the next bus arrived without us being usurped, and we crammed ourselves on. We were off!

One winding bus ride later, we were deposited at the top of a hill. Not just any old hill. A hill with a castle and a palace on it! Our first stop was the Castle of the Moors, a 9th century castle constructed by the Moors. The hint’s in the name, you see. It assumes an awesome defensive position. There’s no way you could sneak up on this place: the view stretches for miles and miles, all the way to the coast of Portugal.

The Castle of the Moors

The Castle of the Moors

 

The Castle of the Moors

The Castle of the Moors

We wandered around here for an hour or so, almost getting blown off the ledge several times. High winds hindered our ability to take those flattering selfies we’d been hoping for.

Pretty awesome views from the top!

Pretty awesome views from the top!

 

View of Sintra and its surrounds from the castle.

View of Sintra and its surrounds from the castle.

Our next stop was the Pena Palace. This is a 19th century palace that is described as Romanesque Revival in regards to its architecture. I personally would describe it as totally bonkers. It looks like something out of a fairy tale, and while I can appreciate it for its gaudy grandeur, I can’t imagine living in it. Unlike so many palaces I visit, obviously…

I swear I didn't adjust the colours in Photoshop...

I swear I didn’t adjust the colours in Photoshop…

Nick's feeling inspired with ideas for our next house...

Nick’s feeling inspired with ideas for our next house…

Next was lunch. We got the bus back into town and found this sweet little restaurant just away from the main square. The food was awesome, although predictably expensive. It was decided that John, Sandra and Nick would head back to Oeiras after lunch, stopping at a big supermarket en route to do some provisioning, and Kelly and I would soldier on to the last attraction on our list, Quinta da Regaleira.

This place was awesome. Another palace, not nearly as over the top as Pena, sits proudly at the entrance, but this isn’t the main reason for visiting. The grounds are what inspired us to visit, and we weren’t disappointed. Wikipedia describes the grounds as ‘a luxurious park that features lakes, grottoes, wells, benches, fountains, and a vast array of exquisite constructions.’ Yep, that pretty much sums it up. I’ll just let the photos do the talking.

Like something out of Lord of the Rings

Like something out of Lord of the Rings

 

One of the grottos

One of the grottos

 

One of the underground  tunnels

One of the underground tunnels

 

Half expecting an elf to appear!

Half expecting an elf to appear!

 

The footbridge

The footbridge

 

The lovely gardens

The lovely gardens

 

The palace at Quinta da Regaleira

The palace at Quinta da Regaleira. Bloody tourists spoiling my shot.

Eventually, knackered and footsore, we walked back to the train station. No sooner than we sat down, a bus pulled up going straight to Oeiras station! This was the perfect end to an awesome day, because I’d thought the buses only ran to Lisbon or Cascais, and we’d have to train it from there. But no, we jumped on that bus and an hour later we were home.

Until next time!

Until next time!

Lisbon

Portugal continues to woo us with the delightful Lisbon, it’s capital. On Saturday Nick and I caught the train in and had a little explore. Actually, we walked for freaking hours, but it was worth it. Lisbon shows a very different side of Portugal- in a good way. So far, we’ve seen many coastal towns, most not to our liking unfortunately, but Lisbon is definitely worth a visit. It’s a clean, pleasant city, with leafy streets and pedestrianised laneways. The riverfront is spacious and inviting, with a decked boardwalk and lots of little stalls selling iced tea, or cocktails. Several large plazas open up as you walk through the city and, invariably, have some kind of monument or fountain- or both- in the middle of them.

Big smiles in Lisbon

Big smiles in Lisbon

We walked uphill, away from the river, and found ourselves at a lookout, with excellent views over central Lisbon. A couple of happy snaps later, and we headed over to the real reason for our trek: El Corte Ingles, a department store. Yes, we’re sad. I won’t deny it. Why would I spend my time and money going to museums or places of historical interest when I can mooch around looking at shoes and laptops?

Central Lisbon

Central Lisbon

Anyway, we left pretty much empty handed, made our way back to Oeiras, and that night we had a drink with a lovely couple we’ve met who are also doing the ARC, John and Sandra. As we head further south, we’re seeing more and more ARC flags, and it’s exciting to meet people who have the same plans as us.

Sunday was a lazy day, apart from a couple of beers on John and Sandra’s Discovery 55 (we had a little nose around when we went to the loo- separately!- and now have cabin envy, toilet envy, shower envy and fridge envy). The only other thing we had to do that day was make sure every inch of the boat was sparkling because, the next day, my ever so slightly OCD sister arrived at long last!

I met Kelly at the airport, after a long and, in the end, fruitless wait at the station for a bus that never turned up. In a panic, I got a cab, and was delighted when my 20 minute cab ride only cost me €8. Wish I knew that sooner, I would have saved myself about a litre of sweat, waiting in the baking sun. Anyway, one family reunion later, and Kelly and I headed to Mercado do Ribeira, a new gourmet food hall in the building of Lisbon’s old fruit and veg market. It’s awesome. If anyone reading this goes to Lisbon, this is definitely the place to spend all your mealtimes. It’s not, like, sushi and burgers (although, if you feel like it, you do have those options- but they’re posh, you understand, not McDonalds and Itsu). Feel like pan fried scallops on a bed of squid ink risotto? Perhaps a perfectly cooked steak, or freshly grilled fish? Charcuterie? Pad thai? Pretty much whatever you feel like, you can get here. Don’t expect cheap. But expect GOOOOOD.

The next day was a lazy day, just spent chilling on the boat and doing boring stuff like laundry and the shopping. Nick lugged his surfboard all the way down to the surf break, only to find not a single ripple in the water, so turned around and came back to the boat. Alas, it’s the wrong season for surfing. At least a lack of swell means relatively comfortable sailing conditions.

Apparently the best Portuguese tarts in Portugal....?

Apparently the best Portuguese tarts in Portugal….?

Today was again spent in Lisbon, but this time we got off at Belem, a couple of stations out from the centre. Our main reason for stopping was because Nick had heard of a two storey chandlery here, which he wanted to visit. Kelly and I happily wandered around the district, enjoying the gardens and what I think was a palace of some kind… pretty to look at anyway. Then, most importantly, we visited the most celebrated and famous Portuguese tart cafe in all of Portugal. This place was absolutely swamped with tourists, and the line just to get takeaway was unreal. But, although long, it moved quickly, and Kelly and I enjoyed our pastries with a coffee in the park. Verdict? Well, I’m no expert, but I have tasted quite a few of these Portuguese tarts since being in the country. I’ve bought them at service stations, cafes, supermarkets, you name it. I have to say… I’m not sure what the fuss was about. Sure, they were good. But if I’d popped into the cafe just across the road selling the same range of cakes, I’m not sure I could have told the difference.

Belem

Belem

Onward we continued, reaching Lisbon at last, and, on my suggestion, we climbed (okay, walked, but it felt like climbing) uphill to the Castelo de S. Jorge, which looked like it had awesome views over Lisbon. Well, we got there eventually, sweating and ready for a nap, and there was a massive line for the tickets. Entry to the grounds was the only way of accessing the view, which I was pretty miffed about, so we wandered around listlessly for a bit, before making the descent. After another walking tour of central Lisbon, we headed back to Mercado do Ribeira, and enjoyed a meal of bacalhau (salted cod- the Portuguese are obsessed with this stuff) on a bed of puréed chickpeas, a couscous salad with honey roasted carrots and goats cheese, and an octopus and potato salad. We thought we were full, but managed to scoff a double scoop of ice-cream from a stall that claimed to have the best gelati in the whole wide world. “We’ll see about that!” said Nick, and 10 minutes and much discussion and debate later, we’ve decided that, actually, we can’t think of any ice cream that beats it for pure intensity and amazingness of flavour. Nick’s reluctant to remove his cream cheese and fig ice cream he had in Seville from top place, but I think that’s more nostalgia than anything else. This ice cream was the bomb. It makes me incredibly sad to think that I’ll probably never have it again…

Kelly clutching onto her bag of Portuguese tarts!

Kelly clutching onto her bag of Portuguese tarts!

So, that brings you all up to date! Tomorrow we go to Sintra, a UNESCO heritage site about a 30 minute drive away. Friday will probably be a rest/clean/preparation day, and then- south!

Palm Trees and Blue Skies

Oh dear, I’m getting very slack aren’t I? I’ve left you hanging for a whole week and a half between blogs. How on earth are you coping?!

Right, let’s get you up to speed. Nazaré was awesome, but after 12 days there we decided the time had come to move south. Nick and I had spent much of our time eating fish and seafood in Nazaré or surfing down the beach, which was really quite idyllic, but nothing lasts forever, and we picked Sunday as our leaving date.

Motorsailing to Peniche- before it all went wrong.

Motorsailing to Peniche- before it all went wrong.

It was a beautiful day: blue skies, light winds, pleasantly warm. We were enjoying our 25 mile sail south, anticipating our arrival in Peniche, when two things happened at once. First, a fishing net got caught in our propeller. This is the first time this has happened, although it’s certainly not an uncommon occurrence amongst yachts in this part of the world. We had met another couple who had had the same problem, and were only able to make 2 knots as they made their way towards the nearest harbour. Luckily, it didn’t seem to effect our speed at all, and we were still doing about 5 knots. We managed to cut a big clump off as we were underway, but that didn’t actually effect the section of the net still caught up in the prop. We decided to wait until we got into Peniche until making any further attempts to remove it. Not that we had much of a choice.

The second event occurred only minutes later. Suddenly, all our electrics turned themselves off. Chart plotter, our log/depth/wind displays, everything. We did the whole ‘turn off, then back on’ trick, which worked for a few minutes, before they all shut themselves down again. After much troubleshooting, we determined that, if we turned our chart plotter off, everything else would function happily on it’s own. By turning the chart plotter on, it would all crash again. So, we finally had use for Nick’s chart plotter app on his iPad, which we used to navigate into Peniche harbour.

We had been warned about Peniche marina, and we interested to see how we’d get on with it. Peniche harbour is huge, and contains not only pontoons for yachts, but also for tourist boats going to neighbouring islands, and the fishing fleet. Visiting yachts are to moor on the outside of the small marina’s hammerhead, which means there is absolutely no protection from the wash of passing boats- of which there were many, often travelling at speed. Tourist boats during the day, fishing boats at night. Thankfully, as it happened, there were only a few fishing boats that passed by us overnight, causing minimal discomfort. More problematic was the thumping music until 2am, which concluded with a long firework display right over the marina.

So, once we were tied up (a hairy moment occurred when Nick, trying to avoid the boat in front, had to put the engine into reverse, causing the net to become even more entangled in the propeller, at which point we lost drive completely- luckily, we were only metres from the pontoon, and were able to glide in and tie up with the help of a friendly Dutchman dressed in nothing but his underpants), we had an afternoon of problem solving. First, the electronics. Nick, after spending a couple of hours testing individual instruments and systems, finally announced that everything seemed to be working just fine again. How mysterious.

Then Nick donned his wetsuit and, as I watched on trying to be helpful without actually doing anything, jumped in the water to hack the net away from the prop. Again, things went our way, and it came away without any major dramas. After much pondering and scouring the internet, Nick’s concluded that somehow the net becoming caught in the prop caused our electronics to crash. All we know is that everything seems to be working again, saving us considerable money and hassle, for which we’re extremely thankful.

Haven't had a photo for a few paragraphs, so here's one of Nick looking relaxed and happy!

Haven’t had a photo for a few paragraphs, so here’s one of Nick looking relaxed and happy!

So, the next day we made our way to Cascais (pronounced with a Sean Connery accent, in case you were wondering). Again, the marina’s reputation preceded it, this time for even less desirable reasons: it is exceptionally expensive. By Portugese standards, of course. But, to give you some context, Nazaré marina worked out to be €20 per night for 12 nights. Cascais marina was €45 per night. For that we got a free bottle of wine, a couple of guys waiting for us at our pontoon ready to take our lines, fairly average showering facilities and slow wifi. Don’t ask me how they justify that cost.

Cascais marina at sunset

Cascais marina at sunset

However, one very happy event took place in Cascais: our friends Matt and Kaitlyn came out to meet us! For those really keen followers who have read last year’s posts as well, you might recall that Matt and Kaitlyn came out to France with us last summer. Well, since they behaved reasonably well and did almost all the dishes, we invited them back.

Cascais marina at night, looking toward the town.

Cascais marina at night, looking toward the town.

Cascais is a bit of an odd place. Like Porto, we felt like we should like it- but we just couldn’t bring ourselves to warm to it. It’s certainly a very attractive town with lots of well maintained public gardens and patterned cobbled streets lined with palm trees. There’s several small beaches along the seafront, and a beautiful anchorage. Unfortunately, there were also plenty of Irish pubs, overpriced restaurants with english names, and far too many actual English people (including one Mr Cameron, according to the BBC news- as good a reason as any to dislike the place, if it’s the chosen location for the PM’s summer holiday).

However, Cascais will have a place in our hearts forever on account of the huge hypermarket right in the centre of town, which is, sadly, quite exciting for Nick and I , since we’re usually forced to do our shopping in small mini-markets. Poor Matt and Kaitlyn were forced to spend the first morning of their holiday traipsing up and down the aisles after us, as we made excitable comments like, “Yes, coconut milk! Better get a couple of cartons” or “Terysa, they’ve got pimentos!” or “LIMES!” Then, “They’re selling trolleys for a tenner. Better get one.” It got a bit out of control for a while.

Sailing with our mates.

Sailing with our mates.

The next day we didn’t hang around. Off we went for the arduous 6 mile journey to Oeiras, just downriver. For we were now entering the River Tagus, which is where Lisbon is located. Oeiras is a town on its outskirts, and the only reason we were stopping there was because we get 50% off, and after feeling totally ripped off in Cascais, we felt the need for that smug satisfaction that comes with getting a hefty discount.

However, Oeiras is extremely appealing, as it turns out. The marina is far better appointed than Cascais and, even full price, is €10 less per night. Small and intimate, surrounded by a high breakwater, you feel safely sheltered from the rest of the world. The staff are incredibly warm and friendly, there is a shuttle service to Lisbon, Sintra and Cascais (and the bloke who owns the boat opposite reckons they might even give us a lift to the nearby hypermarket for free, but we’re yet to test that out), the marina itself has cafes and bars aplenty, there’s a swimming pool next door that we get free access to (we went to visit and it was all a bit mad, so maybe not, but it is school holidays), AND we get lovely fresh bread in the morning delivered to the boat. Plus the wifi speed is the fastest we’ve had since Nick’s parents’ house in London, so we’re streaming BBC Breakfast every morning with our coffee. Feels like old times!

Beach right next to the Oeiras marina.

Beach right next to the Oeiras marina.

There’s a small beach right next to the marina, separated from a larger beach by a fortification of some kind that we’re not allowed access to because it belongs to the military for some reason. Along both beachfronts is a plethora of bars and cafes, giving us plenty of dining options. We’ve spent quite a bit of time walking along the promenade, then recovering from the sun exposure in the shade with a beer and lunch. It’s been bloody warm, with barely a cloud in the sky since we rounded Peniche, a marked difference to the changeable weather in Nazaré and further north. The sudden presence of palm trees and oleanders indicate that this isn’t merely a bit of good luck- it’s clearly the norm. Luckily, once the sun dips below the horizon at night, it cools right down, allowing us to sleep comfortably.

Matt and Kaitlyn

Matt and Kaitlyn

Sadly, Matt and Kaitlyn had to leave us yesterday to head back to London. We’re definitely going to miss their company, but plans for them to meet us in the Caribbean are already in place, so hopefully we’ll see them again soon, this time drinking rum instead of sangria (yeah, I thought sangria was Spanish too, but it’s everywhere here, so we’re not going to turn it down, are we?).

So Nick and I have the weekend free to get the boat sorted before my sister arrives on Monday. I can’t promise another blog between now and then, but I’ll try not to leave it another week and a half. That would just be cruel.

Chilled evenings with our mates.

Chilled evenings with our mates.

Surf’s Up!

You know how I said last week that we weren’t too keen on Portugal? Yeah, forget I said that. We’ve had a complete change of heart, thanks to the last week in Nazaré. We heart Portugal!

Baleal Island, our new favourite beach spot

Baleal Island, our new favourite beach spot

So, after a disappointing- but brief- stay in Figueira do Foz, we sailed down to Nazaré. Our expectations were low: the guide book says that “The harbour is rather bleak and it is also more than 1.5km from the town itself” (do you mean to say I’m going to have to get off my arse and WALK?!) and “Possibly the most compelling reason to visit Nazaré is as a base from which to visit Portugal’s most famous cultural sites.” And then goes on to describe in detail one of the two marinas in Nazaré- and completely ignores the other! Literally, doesn’t even provide a phone number or VHF channel and call sign. However, friends we’ve met along the way overtook us and emailed us some weeks ago giving us the heads up for the second marina That Shall Not Be Named, so we called up, confirmed their existence and that they accept visiting yachts, and headed there- it’s the Club Naval da Nazaré, for those who are interested.

So, once berthed and checked in- the bloke who runs this marina is, incidentally, a very friendly young man and there seems to plenty of space for visiting yachts- we went into town for a drink and explore. We were pleasantly surprised! It’s clearly a popular holidaying spot for not only the Portugese, but the French also, and why not. The beach is clean, pleasant, the sea fairly safe with a small shore break perfect for frolicking in, and there’s a plethora of bars and restaurants in town. Once you get back from the seafront- which is by no means unpleasant, but can be a little tacky with stalls selling towels with dalmatians or the characters from Frozen on them, and overpriced, mostly empty restaurants- the town become much more traditional and charming, with tiny lane ways and cobbled streets.

Traditional fishing boats

Traditional fishing boats

However, the main attraction is the surf. There’s no real surf in Nazaré itself, but the nearest break, only 10 kilometres away holds the impressive accolade of hosting the biggest ridden wave ever recorded. If you want to see something to make your jaw drop, click here.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/worldnews/10410846/Surfers-ride-monster-waves-off-Nazare-Portugal-after-St-Judes-storm.html

Thankfully, no monster waves for us. We’ve been taking surf lessons with the guys at Surf 4 You (highly recommend them, by the way, check out the link if you’re in the area and want a fun morning!), who pick us up from the marina in the morning, take us to wherever the surf is at its best, give us a 90 minute lesson, wait for us while we get in some serious sunbathing time and have a burger at the local bar, then bring us back to the boat. Perfect! We’ve gone to Peniche several times, which is a fantastic beach for learners, evident from the hoards of surf schools around the area. There’s also lots of bars along the beachfront, which is ideal. We’ve become very fond of one of the surf spots in Peniche, Baleal island, which has a very relaxed, family friendly, surfy vibe. Lots of learners in the surf, everyone from children to older folks (gotta be careful of what age I’m calling ‘old’! I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blanks…). We love it.

Post-surf debrief

Post-surf debrief

Nick’s been doing surf lessons almost every day, keen to take advantage of Miguel and Henrique’s expertise to improve his form and try and get out of the bad habits he’s picked up. I’ve picked up a soft board and gotten wet once or twice, but I also don’t mind just lazing on the beach or chilling in the beach bar. Nope, I don’t mind that one bit.

And he's off!

And he’s off!

We’ve also loved the food here. There seems to be a lot of choice in town, but we’ve gone for the Portugese options, since they mainly consist of amazingly fresh and delicious seafood and fish. Our little routine, for those who care, is a beer and a plate of clams in a tomato and onion sauce at a bar called Casa o Santo in a small square behind the seafront, then move on to a Portugese restaurant for dinner. Before coming to Portugal we had absolutely no idea what Portugese food even was. Well, my experience of it so far has pretty much been delicious fresh fish, grilled in front of your eyes, served with a simple salad and boiled potatoes. Or a seafood stew thing, but I haven’t tried that one yet. Maybe tonight? And, of course, Portugese tarts. However, possibly my overriding memory of Nazaré’s food scene will come from the ice cream parlour we visited yesterday. Obviously, we couldn’t just go for a simple scoop, so we leafed through the menu and ordered a couple of small sundaes. Well, they were literally- literally- the size of my head. Even the waitress looked a little apologetic at our bewildered expressions. They must get that reaction a lot. But some miracle, Nick finished his. Boys have that strange capability, don’t they? But I was defeated half way through. Sundae 1. Terysa 0.

Sundae's the size of my head. Or, my entire upper body, depending on perspective.

Sundae’s the size of my head. Or, my entire upper body, depending on perspective.

So we keep putting off our leaving date for Nazaré, and now Nick’s just committed to having surf lessons for the rest of the week. Our lovely friends Matt and Kaitlyn told us yesterday that they’re flying out to meet us next Monday, and I’d like to say that we’ll be in the next port by then…. but it’s entirely likely we’ll still be here this time next week.

Chilling in Nazaré

Chilling in Nazaré

First Impressions of Portugal

It’s been over a week since I posted last, and for that I apologise. I know you must all be going through some serious withdrawal symptoms by now, but fear not: I’m back.

Last Sunday we left Baiona, a wonderful city we could have spent a lot more time in, and sailed south to Viana do Castelo in Portugal. We arrived into the small marina and were pointed towards a berth that had two other yachts on it, with a space in between. This was our first experience with Mediterranean style mooring, and we were so glad that one of the yachtsmen on the neighbouring boat jumped off to help us, otherwise we would have had literally no idea what to do. The next day we helped out another English yacht who looked similarly bewildered, so we’re obviously not alone!

This was our first taste of Portugal and we were pleasantly surprised. What looked like a fairly charmless industrial river-side town turned out to be a prosperous, up-market place with big plazas and narrow paved streets lined with expensive looking homewares and jewellery shops, plenty of bars and restaurants, and a beautifully maintained park running along the riverfront. We were impressed.

In hindsight, we probably should have stayed another couple of days, because, so far, Viana has been the highlight of the Portugese leg of our trip. Next stop was Povoa Varzim, which was an incredible €9 per night (we got a 50% discount). However, you get what you pay for, and, although there was nothing wrong with the marina- apart from a lot of bird poop for some reason- the town had absolutely nothing to recommend it. This is second hand information, taken from Nick who went ashore to find a supermarket. I didn’t even bother to get off the boat. He came back and reported that it was like a Portugese version of Ramsgate. Moving swiftly along…

Porto was our next stop and we were cautiously optimistic that this would be a good town to spend a bit of time in. We arrived into the brand new marina, was helped in by a friendly marineros, and then went to the bus stop to catch the bus into town. Well, that was a mistake. An hour later, and having had a winding tour of Porto’s rather forgettable southern suburbs, we finally arrived into town, map in hand.

Walking around, I think it’s fair to say we felt a bit nonplussed. Nick and I have discussed our impressions of Porto at length, so I’m speaking for both of us here. Porto is certainly a very interesting place, with plenty of historical significance, something that is reflected in it’s architecture. Impressive buildings and churches abound, and, aesthetically, it’s fascinating. I don’t think I’ve been anywhere that so perfectly fits the description of ‘shabby chic.’ Many of the residential areas are quite run-down, and even the main shopping or eating areas have a derelict air. Not all the buildings, of course. Many are well maintained, but it seems that this is an uphill struggle- pardon the pun, because, of course, the other defining factor of Porto is its hilly nature. Great for toning the legs. Less good for trying to maintain that effortless ‘all I do is drink lots of water and wear moisturiser’ natural look that I generally aim for (and fail miserably, clearly). Sweat patches, a red face and frizzy hair are not a good look.

Street art, Porto

Street art, Porto

But Porto is as chic as it is shabby, and, underneath all these beautiful run-down old buildings are streets full of tiny wine bars, cool cafes, funky restaurants, boutique shops selling God knows what (all expensive, of course). Add that to the trams running along the riverfront (Nick thought they looked like something out of the 20s, I thought they looked like something out of the 50s, but we both agreed that they were of another era entirely), the hoards of young tattooed hipsters, the hand-written slogans on blackboards out the front of the bars saying things like, “Money may not buy happiness, but it buys alcohol, and that’s almost the same thing”, and Porto was strangely reminiscent of Melbourne, in a weird way.

One of the squares in Porto

One of the squares in Porto

Despite all this, Nick and I didn’t feel a connection with Porto. There was something a little forced and impersonal about it. The city was too big, there were too many tourists, and I just didn’t feel relaxed there. Plus, it was a slog to get to from the marina- we faced either the aforementioned bus ride, or a long walk to the ferry. We chose the latter, but the next day took our bikes to try and speed up the process. Dodging trams, cars, pedestrians, and other cyclists- who all use the same multi-purpose lane on the side of the proper road- meant that what we gained in speed, we lost in enjoyment.

Putting the 'shabby' in shabby chic

Putting the ‘shabby’ in shabby chic

So we left Porto a little earlier than we’d originally planned, and made our way to Figueira da Foz. The English couple who we’d helped in Viana with their lines kept popping up, and we saw them again in Porto. Graham and Jayne, a lovely couple who are planning to spend a few years sailing around the Med, were also leaving Porto yesterday, and so we sailed in company with them. It was a long day- about 12 hours- but was hugely enjoyable.

The morning dawned cloudy but mild, without a breath of wind, and the seas were reassuringly calm (swell’s been a bit of an issue- but we’ll be thankful for that when we get to the surf beaches). The sky and the sea were exactly the same hue of oyster grey, and it was a truly beautiful morning, despite being overcast. Another bonus- FISH! We’ve finally been able to justify the huge amount of money we’ve spent on fishing gear over the last couple of years, as we landed mackerel after mackerel, including a large Atlantic mackerel on the “big” fishing rod, the first thing we’ve caught on that bloody thing despite having a line out on almost every passage. So that was a bit of excitement.

The cloud moved off around midday and we had an afternoon of bright sunshine and flat seas. Lovely. That night, after tying up, Graham and Jayne came over to help us eat all that mackerel, which we cooked on the BBQ. It was absolutely delicious.

Figueira da Foz is, again, underwhelming. It seems like perhaps the recession has hit hard here- there’s lots of closed shopfronts and £1 shops, or the equivalent. The big shopping centre is all closed down, sitting there rather sadly in the centre of town. So, despite the fact that we’re quite ready to slow down and just stay somewhere for a week or so, we’ve not found anywhere we’re happy to spend that length of time. So, tomorrow, Nazaré. I shall report back.